How Movies Can Help You Deal with Romance at the Workplace

Mixing business with “pleasure” has never been a recipe for a “happily ever after” and sex in the workplace seems to cause pain more often than satisfaction. Every year, an average of 15,000 claims are filed for sexual harassment in the workplace; news headlines about sexual scandals between prominent bosses and work subordinates provoke public contempt and outrage; more families and couples split as a result of an extramarital affair that one of the spouses began in the workplace; and more psychotherapists treat patients experiencing the aftermaths of a workplace romance gone sour. Such aftermaths may range from feeling angry, confused, humiliated and depressed to having been fired from the job, sometimes without even a letter of recommendation.

More companies today are enforcing work dating policies, providing training about work romance, or choosing to show lenience toward romantic involvement among employees, so long as it doesn’t threaten productivity and team effort. And yet, so many people are not clear about the rules of romance at work. Still a taboo and a subject for tabloid gossip, sex and romance at work is considered a thorny issue most of us wish would go away.

Whether you are an employer or employee, here is how to prepare your personnel and yourself to deal with Cupid striking at the office:

Know The Definition of Sexual Harassment. Sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee, against his or her wishes. This unwanted behavior affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with this person’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

The film “Disclosure”, illustrates how sexual harassment is the abuse of power that violates another person’s moral, ethical and emotional boundaries. The films shows how a computer specialist is sued for sexual harassment by a former lover turned boss, whose purpose is to incriminate him and destroy both his career and his personal life.

If you are being sexually harassed don’t stay silent hoping it will go away. This behavior usually escalates if you don’t stop the harasser with a firm, proactive stand. Call the person on their behavior immediately, ask them to stop and warn them that you will report them if they continue. If it continues, report the harassment. Your employer has the responsibility to take each complaint seriously and investigate.

Deal Appropriately with Sexual Advances from Coworkers. A sexual advance may be a straightforward expression of sexual attraction to a coworker, a blunt invitation for a physical relationship, or flirtatious behavior that has gone overboard.

In the movies, Andy, the central character of “The 40-Year Old Virgin”, neutralizes his female boss’s advances by staying loyal to his values. His boss understands. When he gets promoted, it is not because of sexual favors but because of his job performance.

Real life often resembles the movies. If you stay loyal to your values and keep your work priorities straight, you too can achieve success without losing your integrity.

Honor Your Work First, then Your Sex Fantasies. In the film “A Time to Kill” a young and handsome Mississippi lawyer is handling with admirable strength a tough criminal case and a very attractive assistant. Even though the sexual chemistry between them sizzles, he chooses to channel his passion into the case, which he wins.

If you ever feel irresistibly attracted to a coworker, before you give into your fantasies do a reality check. Examine how it would affect your work if you consummated your sexual attraction. If you realize that it would jeopardize your work–and your relationship with your colleague–then you should honor your work and look for a different outlet for your fantasies.

Don’t ever Start An Extramarital Affair in The Workplace. In “The Firm”, young attorney Mitch is the victim of a corrupt law firm that throws its employees into extramarital affairs and then blackmails them to extort their loyalty. He has a company-induced affair that costs him his marriage and his sanity. The movie has a happy ending only because Mitch fights very hard to recover the love of his wife.

In real life, extramarital affairs in the workplace never have a happily ever after. Besides the agony of being discovered at home, the parties involved live with the constant stress of being discovered at work. When this happens be prepared to cut your losses. And those losses may include your reputation, your family, your job, the person you have the affair with, or all of the above.

When You Date A Colleague, Set Post-Breakup Rules from The Beginning.In the classic film “The Apartment” C.C. Baxter climbs the career ladder by lending his apartment to his boss for his extramarital trysts. He’s also falling in love with his coworker, Fran. All seems to work fine, until he discovers that Fran is also his boss’s mistress. How will they all emerge from such perplexed dynamics and keep their jobs?

In real life, a romance with a coworker always has some impact on your work life. Once you know each other intimately, you become more vulnerable to each other. This is why you must draw up a contract in which you specify how you will preserve your working relationship, should your personal relationship not last. Sign it and honor it, in case you break up. It’s a smart thing to do. You don’t want a situation like Baxter and Fran’s.

Stay Away from Office Sex Gossip. In the French comedy “The Closet”, the main character François spreads false rumors at work that he is gay, hinting that he will sue the management if they fire him for sexual discrimination. As sex gossip spreads in the office it creates havoc in his coworkers’ careers and personal lives with consequences that vary from hilarious to severe.

In real life, you should avoid office havoc by staying away from gossip about your coworkers’ sexual orientation and sex life. When a coworker confesses to you an affair with another coworker, politely decline to become their sounding board. Protect your self and your job. You never know how office sex gossip may backfire or used against you, whether you have generated it or not.

When Cupid Strikes at The Office, Keep Your Romance Private. In the movie “Kindergarten Cop”, tough guy detective Kimble goes into a school undercover as a kindergarten teacher to investigate a case. He ends up falling in love with Joyce, another school teacher who is also the very subject of his investigation. But this is true love and it changes Kimble’s destiny. Leaving the police force, he returns to Joyce and her school as real kindergarten teacher.

In real life, if you have found your soul mate in a certain coworker and you want your budding romance to have a happily ever after, you must keep it private until it becomes a serious, mutual commitment. Never transfer in the workplace personal conflicts with the person you date. Always respect each other as coworkers. Make your romance public only when it’s a solid relationship that you know will last. Then, it’s a time to celebrate. Congratulations! You have shown discretion and good judgment!

Knowing how to navigate successfully the dark waters of romance in the workplace, should be part of your job training. Follow these guidelines as rules of conduct to ensure your career and safeguard your personal life, every time Cupid’s arrow threaten to pierce your bubble at the office.

Dr. Romance on Getting Out of Your Own Way

Recently, Dr. Romance has been asked a lot about how people can overcome paralysis and self-sabotage, so I thought I’d pass on my ideas on the subject. Getting in your own way is all about how you relate your yourself. In addition to not managing your time effectively, there are many ways you can stop yourself from getting the most out of life – not enjoying what you have or have accomplished; not being able to get motivated, or finish what you begin; and having a negative focus, which leads to discouragement, anxiety, despair and even depression.

Paralysis

When you aren’t able to get yourself motivated, to complete what you start, or to follow through when you need to, it’s called emotional paralysis. The main factors that lead to paralysis are Lack of Self-Trust, Being Outer-directed, Overwhelm, Perfectionism and Negative Thinking. Let’s look at each of these roadblocks, and what you can do about them.:

Lack of self-trust:

When you don’t trust yourself, your own judgement, your intelligence, and your ability to manage yourself and make your own decisions, life is too frightening to move. Here’s an exercise abbreviated from It Ends With You to help you strengthen your self-trust.

Steps to learning self-trust

1. Ask your own opinion. Frequently ask yourself: “What do I think about this? Do I like it? Does it make sense to me? Do I agree or disagree with the others?”

2. Listen to the answer. Listen to your opinions as you would to the ideas of a respected friend. Consider them, weigh them, and even discuss them with yourself from time to time.

3. Repeat until it’s a habit. After a few weeks, you’ll become comfortable with your personal opinions, which will have a profound effect on what you do and how you act. Decision making will be faster and easier, and you’ll feel much more secure in making decisions.

Being Outer-directed:

Knowing and acting on your own opinion is being inner-directed. Making decisions based on what others want or just reacting and responding to events is being outer-directed. You get along like that for a while, then you grind to a halt and become emotionally paralyzed. You must be the one in charge of your life – I believe it’s what we were designed to do, and I see every day what happens to people who don’t take charge of their thoughts, words and deeds. Once you know your own opinion, you need to act on it. The opinions of others are helpful input, but your decisions must be your own.

Overwhelm:

When you don’t take time to think clearly about the issues and problems in your life, and get mentally organized, you try to solve everything at once, and become overwhelmed and paralyzed. To overcome this problem, write down the thoughts that are racing through your head, make a list of everything that needs to be done, and prioritize. Then, pick one thing, break it down into steps, and begin doing the steps. You’ll find that organizing your thoughts like this makes everything much more manageable.

Perfectionism:

The final paralyzer is wanting to do things so perfectly that nothing is good enough. To break the paralysis, lighten up on your demands of yourself. Be a supportive, encouraging friend to yourself, not a demanding boss.

Negative thinking

By far the biggest roadblock in your relationship with yourself and with life is negative thinking. Many of my clients are afraid that recognizing problems, difficulties and grief is the same as negative thinking, and therefore, they ricochet back and forth between pretending to be happy and feeling hopeless.

Grieving is not negative thinking, it’s an adjustment in feelings. If you allow yourself to acknowledge whatever feelings you have (anger, fear, sadness, joy) you’ll be able to feel real happiness when it comes. Negative thinking is actually scaring oneself. To latch on to only the negative things, to “catastrophize” about how awful things are or will become creates unnecessary tension and stress — and eventual paralysis.

The antidote to negative thinking is trust. Trust yourself — you have a direct line to eternal wisdom, and expressing your feelings clears up the static so you’ll know what is most important for you in this moment. Trust your family and friends — they love you, they want to help, so let in the love they give you. Living as truthfully as you can — including when you’re upset, frightened, or hurting — will put you in harmony with God’s plan for your life. Above all, trust Love — trust that you are surrounded with it, that your loved ones love you back, that you were created by Love, and, when it’s time, you will be re-created by Love. Trust the blessings of life — even the worst things will somehow turn out to be a blessing, though you may not be able to see it now. Eternal Wisdom is so much bigger than we are, and we cannot understand all its workings, but “all the Power that ever was or will be, is here now” and we are all safe.

Whatever threatens our little ego-based world cannot touch that which is eal within us. There is no need to be paralyzed, to be afraid, to hesitate. Goethe, the beloved German poet, said

Some of your ills you have cured

And the sharpest at least you’ve survived.

But what torments of Hell you’ve endured

From evils that never arrived

Hot Romance on a Middle-Eastern Stage

In many ways Pinnacle Lust, a first novel written by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre, is a classic, steamy romance. You have the impossibly-handsome married doctor with six-pack abs and a killer smile. You have the smart and beautiful nurse, pursued by many men, who loses her heart to him. You have lots of hot, super-erotic sexual encounters. You have the ultimate heartbreak of a forbidden love between star-crossed lovers.

You even have the teenage daughter coming to grips with the fact that she is the precious fruit of this passionate-but-doomed love (no spoiler here – this is obvious by the third page). And all of it is very well executed.

What really sets this book apart from others in this otherwise fairly predictable genre is the fact that it is set in Israel during Operation Desert Storm, and was written by an Israeli native who was a nurse with a career very much like that of the main character.

This means that you get a powerful firsthand look at what everyday life was like in Israel when most Americans were watching Shock and Awe on the 24-hour news channels. You experience what working life is like in the Israeli medical system, right down to the super-strict religious regulations in a Hasidic hospital (it is a sin and therefore illegal to be alone in a room, or even an elevator, with someone of the opposite sex “for more time than it takes to boil an egg”).

You get a taste of what it’s like to live in a country where everyone performs military service in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), and where a SCUD missile occasionally takes out the building next door to where you work.

The cultural subtext in this book is never self-conscious or contrived. It is simply woven into the story line, so that as you read it you have a feeling of actually living in a relatively non-religious settlement, or of visiting a friend in the Golan Heights. You experience the hot, dusty summers in a country where air conditioning is more a necessity than a luxury.

Romance is not my go-to genre, but I really enjoyed this book. Pinnacle Lust more than lives up to its sexy title, with the added huge benefit that its story is written across the canvas of a culture that will be both strangely familiar and utterly foreign to most American readers.